Planting Made Simple
Planting is the bread and butter of the gardening world and, contrary to popular belief, winter is a great time to get started.
There is so much that can be planted during this cooler period between autumn and spring, including vegetables for winter and trees for spring blossom and summer fruits next year. Follow my guide on what to plant this season and which tools you’ll need to help you get the job done with ease.
Plants for winter
Growing plants in the garden has long been a British pastime. In medieval times, vegetables and herbs were grown inside castle walls to provide food in the event of a siege while, during the Second World War, ordinary people grew food in ‘Victory Gardens’ to supplement their rations. (See our Kent & Stowe Dig for Victory Gift Range) Today, growing your own fruit and vegetables in the garden may not be as necessary, but it is just as fun and often produces tastier and fresher produce for use in your homecooked meals than does a trip to the supermarket.
Many types of fruit and vegetable can be sown in winter to provide a rich bounty of food the following spring and summer. These include hardy broad beans, peas and overwintering garlic and onions which can be grown from seed or sets before the end of November. They love the wet winter weather, which helps to swell their bulbs, before warmer weather comes along to ripen them.
Other fruits and vegetables that can be planted in winter for harvesting next year include asparagus, rhubarb, and strawberry plants.
To prepare a bed for these plants, begin by removing weeds and then use a fork, spade or cultivator to turn soil over and improve its structure by aerating it, alleviating compaction and incorporating organic matter into the soil. If not planting immediately, it can be a good idea to cover the bed with tarp—this will ensure the soil is warm to receive the seeds later, which will help them to grow more readily, and will help to prevent weeds from germinating in your chosen spot as quickly. Before sowing seeds, go over the bed with a soil rake to create a crumbly layer of top soil into which delicate young roots can easily grow. Next, create a depression, known as a drill, in the bed by pushing a dibber into the ground. Do this at regular intervals and sow a seed or bulb into each indentation, ensuring that they are spaced the correct distance apart according to the packet. Finish by covering the drill and labelling the planting location.
Trees and shrubs
Trees and shrubs make a great addition to any garden. They add height, providing privacy, offer shelter for tender plants that dislike being exposed, and, if the correct varieties are chosen, can even offer year-round interest in the garden. Most trees are best planted in the depths of winter (November-March), so, now is the perfect time to be planting container-grown fruit trees in your garden. Planting in winter gives the tree a chance to establish itself somewhat as the frosts appear, enabling it to mature over winter and be ready to provide a healthy crop when summer arrives.
Plant fruit trees in the same way as you would other trees. Begin by thoroughly soaking the rootball so that the tree is well-hydrated before planting in the garden. Next, use a spade to dig a hole that is about three times as wide and about as deep as the tree’s root ball and use a garden fork to loosen the soil around the edges making it easier for new roots to push into the surrounding area. Loosen the roots around the edges of the rootball to encourage them to grow out into the soil, rather than circling around the tree’s base, then place in the hole ensuring the crown of the roots is level with or ever so slightly above the soil. Fill around the tree with garden soil and firm in. Finally, water the tree thoroughly and, for best results, apply a mulch on top to keep soil moist and roots protected. However, leave the crown of the roots uncovered as keeping this wet can encourage root rot and diseases to take hold. If your tree is top-heavy or planted in a windy location, stake it with a short stake leaning into the prevailing breeze at a 45 degree angle.
So, there you have it—plant now and you’ll have buckets of delicious fruits and vegetables to enjoy in the new year.